A major cross-generational project

What do we wish for our great-great-great-grandchildren? We do not often think this far ahead, but, in the context of major cross-generational projects, this is a legitimate question. This year’s conference on radioactive waste management revolved around projects of the century and what it takes to successfully master such projects.

Switzerland’s deep geological repository – a major cross-generational project: this will take more than 100 years to complete and has a budget of almost 20 billion Swiss francs. The objective of deep geological disposal is to safely enclose Switzerland’s radioactive waste at a depth of several hundred metres. Nagra expects to start waste emplacement in the repository from 2050, and the last disposal canister should be emplaced by 2075. This will be followed by a monitoring phase of several decades. The final closure of the entire repository, including all the accesses, is scheduled for 2125. By then, our great-great-great-grandchildren may already have children of their own. What can we do to ensure the success of this cross-generational project?

At the conference, Hans Werder, former Secretary General of DETEC, the Swiss Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, looked back on “his” major project, the New Railway Link through the Alps, and named four success factors: professional management, top-level know-how, secured financing and a referendum in favour of the project. Other conference participants emphasised the importance of fully involving all the actors, experts, politicians, siting regions and the general public in the project. This requires intensive collaboration and open dialogue. Major projects on a scale such as this can only be mastered by working together. Last but not least, perseverance and passion are needed to realise such a project of the century.

Our great-great-great-grandchildren could be alive by the time the repository project will have been completed. What do we wish them for the future?

I wish for my great-great-great-grandchildren that they may find Switzerland in a state similar to the one I have been fortunate enough to live in. A Switzerland that will offer freedom of movement and has remained as intact as possible. I hope that they will be free to make their own decisions, that they can still shape their own lives and do not have to concern themselves with a huge waste legacy left behind by us.

Monika Stauffer, Head of Radioactive Waste Management SFOE

I would like my great-great-great-grandchildren to inherit a safe environment and a vibrant, future-oriented, open and successful Switzerland.

Mike Egger, member of the National Council (Swiss People’s Party, SVP), Canton St. Gallen

I hope that my great-great-great-grandchildren, like us today, will have a say in how we dispose of radioactive waste. For this to happen, it is important that the waste remains retrievable. We have to make sure this will be possible – and the time to do that is now.

Markus Späth-Walter, member of the Cantonal Council Zürich

I wish my great-great-great-grandchildren a secure livelihood, an intact environment and, above all, a world where people can live together in peace.

Franziska Ryser, member of the National Council (Green Party), Canton St. Gallen

For my great-great-great-grandchildren, I wish that they can inherit a Switzerland that is worth living in and in which the ecological footprint has been minimised. I hope they will live in a resource-efficient and sustainable society where everything we produce is returned to the cycle and future generations can still enjoy prosperity.

Andri Silberschmidt, member of the National Council (Liberal Democratic Party, FDP), Canton Zürich